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Boys Basketball: For Porters, it’s all or nothing

The memory of the Greenport High School boys basketball team’s painful loss to Lake George in last year’s New York State Class C semifinal has stuck with the Porters. The finality of it all smacked them in the face. From time to time, coach Ev Corwin reminds his players to recall how they felt after that stinging 73-58 defeat.

“I was already thinking about getting back [to the state final four], even like minutes after the loss,” Corwin said. “And I said, ‘Man, it’s a year.’ And now it’s here. All those months thinking about it and now we’re back to it again, finally.”

Well, almost. First Greenport (20-2) has the little matter of a Southeast Region final before them and a capable opponent, Tuckahoe (17-6). The teams will play Saturday at Centereach High School for the right to enter the state semifinals. The state final four will be played March 15-17 at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, site of Greenport’s heartbreaking ending last year.

Tuckahoe earned its place in the regional final with a 67-57 overtime win over Millbrook Monday night at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. Malik Moore-Crooks scored 28 points and Mekhi Clark added 18 for the Tigers.

Corwin and other Greenport coaches watched the game. “They have a couple of good guards,” Corwin said before Tuesday night’s practice. “They run in a lot of guys and they’re pretty deep. They have a couple of big-time players that take a lot of their shots, so we just have to make sure to keep them under control. I just feel like we just have to play our game, play at our pace. That’s the main thing. We don’t want anyone to try to slow us down.

“We want to try to keep that pace, we really do. We’re really going to try to just keep it going, keep it to a track meet, if possible. The key factor for us is just to really focus on doing what we do.”

Doing what they do has worked out well for the Porters this season. In fact, following a season-opening loss to St. Anthony’s, the Porters had racked up 19 straight wins before losing to rival Bridgehampton, 87-85, in the Suffolk County Class CD game on Feb. 16.

Tuckahoe is ranked 13th in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Greenport is ranked ninth.

The Porters have had a couple of scrimmages to try to keep their sharpness, but they’re eager to play a game again. It will have been 21 days since its last game when Greenport takes the court against Tuckahoe. In fact, it has been so long that senior center Jude Swann said it almost feels as if they are embarking on the start of a new season. “I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s been so long.”

Corwin said, “I expect us to come out flying.”

League VII champion Greenport ran through its regular-season schedule, romping over virtually every team it played. The Porters then beat Southold, 82-52, for their 12th county title as junior guard Ahkee Anderson rang up a career-high 50 points.

And then Greenport stumbled in the CD game against Bridgehampton, a team it had beaten twice in league play. The Killer Bees led by as many as 14 points when an Elijah White three-pointer made it 68-54 early in the fourth quarter. Anderson netted 16 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to help Greenport close the gap.

Greenport’s Jaxan Swann knocked down a three that knotted the score, 85-85, with 17.4 seconds remaining. But Bridgehampton’s Nae’jon Ward responded with a game-winning runner with 1.3 seconds left to win it.

“I think after the Bridgehampton loss, we want to just kind of hit the reset button,” said Corwin.

Driven and motivated, the Porters have maintained a single-minded approach. Nothing short of what would be the first state championship in team history will suffice.

Of course to win a state title, they will need to make their fifth appearance in the state final four, and to do that, they need to get past Tuckahoe first.

Said Corwin, “There’s only one result that will make a successful season for us.”

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Photo caption: Greenport’s Ahkee Anderson drives for a layup while Southold’s Cole Brigham watches during the Suffolk County Class C final. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)